A Respectable Gentleman
The day began with a greater sense of emptiness than normal. Goddamn it, Conway. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but I was doing that on purpose. As a respectable gentleman, I wasn’t supposed to be associated with such nonsense, especially during a work event.
Two years passed and I still hadn’t managed to get on base. I was so nervous before my first game that I pounded beers at a gas station between innings. The Native American storeowner found my desperation amusing. He raised the price when I hit the ball passed the pitcher. Our negotiation skills had inverse correlation.
But this time would be different – I showed up early and stretched. I focused on looking like I knew how to play. I even visited the storeowner in advance. He wanted to charge me triple, even quadruple. I’d argue and he’d raise the price again. I ceded to his Prohibition-era leverage and made a lucky catch.
Ultimate victory – one hit out of seven. I smelled like an ape, so I wedged my arms against my shirt. We went to a bar and I locked myself in the bathroom, scrubbing myself like a prisoner. They only served beer and wine and I failed to persuade them otherwise. I was so disgusted I opted for sobriety.
That was my excuse, anyway. I’ve been known to exhibit fiendish behavior under the influence of alcohol. It’s an ex-girlfriend who always takes me back. My colleagues couldn’t see this side of me. I drank so much water I had to go to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. Eventually, I didn’t even bother washing my hands. My aim got worse, too.
“Conway, let’s do shots,” Sheriff demanded.
“They won’t give us liquor.”
“Of course they’ll give us liquor.”
“What kind of liquor?”
Tequila is my favorite next to Rum. Sheriff found it wise to order by the boatload. What kind of person stops at one shot? An ungrateful one, I tell you. I lost count around six. It’s not real money if it’s charged with credit. Our favorite storeowner could’ve learned a thing from these bastards. But this time, I wasn’t footing the bill.
I kept small talk to a minimum.
“Your arms looked great today,” Smoke said.
I nodded – if only it a woman had said that.
At a point, I’d go stir crazy. I stormed around in figure eights, finding someone I could hustle in billiards. It started raining and everyone panicked.
“Conway, let’s go,” Smoke shouted, drooling out his mouth.
I needed to escape.
“But it’s a hurricane.”
“No excuses,” Sheriff intervened.
I tried sprinting, but he grabbed my arm. The humidity was unbearable, so we convinced them to unlock the liquor cabinet. They also gifted us a pipe. I mistrusted kindness after my gas station experience. We fell into a cab and my shirt stuck the backseat.
“Where are you taking me!?”
“I demand to know,” I coughed.
We ran into another dive, but were surrounded by music. I lost Sheriff and Smoke and made friends with a reporter. Turns out, he was investigating the bastard financing this whole operation. If you can believe it, he knew the gas station clerk from a prior arrangement.
“Watch yourself, Conway.”
I should’ve listened to his advice. Sheriff’s face was buried in some woman and Smoke has passed out in a booth. I carried him to a cab – no help at all.
“Does the air conditioning work?”
“This man’s a political figure.”
“Don’t you read the papers?”
He sped off and I felt content. I returned inside and found Sheriff holding court. We drank cheap beer and mingled with fiends. He eventually fled and I should’ve done the same. Instead, I kicked back on my stool, embracing the haze. There was no point hiding any longer.